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Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Ancient Dances and Airs for Lute Suites Nos: 1, for orchestra (1917); 2, for chamber orchestra (1924); 3, for strings (1932)
Philharmonia Hungarica/Antal Dorati
Recorded: Grosser Saal, Wiener Konzerthaus, 9-11 June 1958. ADD
Super Audio CD 3 channel stereo


This release of Respighi’s complete Ancient Dances and Airs for Lute is such an easy CD to review. This is one of the most superb recordings that I have had the privilege to hear. I cannot find fault with the CD which I would describe as one of the ‘great’ recordings of all time.

Respighi’s overall achievements rest mainly on the trilogy of orchestral tone poems in which he interpreted different facets of Rome; namely its fountains, pines and festivals. He identified himself with the distant past and these three Suites are modern transcriptions and adaptations of pieces for lute from Italian and French Renaissance and early Baroque composers. Most of the tunes were taken from the collection of lute music transcribed and published by the Italian musicologist Oscar Chilesotti. The movements represent an incredibly successful synthesis of contrasts of brilliant orchestral colours, some sturdy, some delicately transparent and all truly delightful.

Both the Philharmonia Hungarica and Antal Dorati were at their prime at the time of this recording. Conductor and orchestra clearly relished the art of creating records in the studio and became a most prolific team. Dorati directs truly exhilarating accounts bringing out the invention and imagination in Respighi’s brilliant scoring. These are extraordinary performances of outstanding virtuosity conveying sheer enjoyment.      

Using a CD player to play this SACD I have not heard a recording so clear, so well balanced and as detailed for a long time. It is hard to believe that this is forty-five years old; it sounds of demonstration standard - absolutely magnificent. A remarkable achievement.

Michael Cookson

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